KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Laurie Harvey works with people who aren't usually counted in the official unemployment numbers. She is president and CEO of the Center for Work Education and Employment. It's an organization that helps low income, single parents get jobs. And she joins us from Denver, Colo. Laurie, tell us why parents that you work with aren't counted in these numbers.
LAURIE HARVEY: Well, the parents that we're working with are receiving public assistance or TANF, which is Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, so most of them have not been employed long enough to have received unemployment. So the unemployment figures and the employment figures are built off of those who have received unemployment, so they're somewhat of a subset and quite a vulnerable population in terms of those who need a lot of special work and assistance to get into the job market.
MCEVERS: When we look at today's jobs report, I mean, there's an interesting figure showing that the unemployment rate for single mothers is actually the lowest it's been in 15 years. It's at 5.8 percent. Does that sound right to you?
HARVEY: You know, it does, although we do know that there's a lot of single parents who still are not able to access even public assistance. But I do think those numbers should be lower because, comparing the first six months to the second six months of last year, our full-time placements increased by 9 percent. Our overall placements increased by 10 percent.
MCEVERS: You talked about the numbers and the increases. But, like, are you seeing people's lives change because wages are going up?
HARVEY: Yes, I think that those - we see a lot of our individuals who really don't have a lot of skills. These are not individuals who have been working in a corporation or a business and now are just unemployed. These are individuals who dropped out of high school, probably in ninth grade, and have, generally, retail, housekeeping, kind of stopgap jobs. And interestingly enough, we're seeing some of those who decide not to take the first job that comes along and being a little more picky and realizing that there are better jobs for them and trying to focus on those quality jobs that have higher salaries, better benefits and have a career potential.
MCEVERS: Is there a story of someone you can talk about maybe who you've served recently as you've seen these changes sort of play out in their life?
HARVEY: We had an individual recently who came to us and didn't have any experience. And what she decided to do was take a job in fast food and look at getting her resume built up while, at the same time, really looking at a customer service job. It took her a month or two, but she then received a customer service job with Dish Network, which is paying much higher, of course. And I think that shows that the participants themselves realize that there are more opportunities for them to grow and get those good jobs that are more quality.
MCEVERS: What kind of salary increase are we talking about?
HARVEY: Oh, she would've been making probably $8 dollars an hour, maybe $9 an hour, if that, in her job with fast food. And the entry-level - or jobs for customer service are in that $13, $14 an hour range.
MCEVERS: That's Laurie Harvey. She's president and CEO of the Center for Work Education and Employment in Denver, Colo. Thanks so much.
HARVEY: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.